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Five Ways to Accommodate Sighties in the Workplace

A quick Google search on workplace accommodations will lead you to resource upon resource for ideas on adaptations for disabled employees. Screen readers, flexible work schedules, extended deadlines — there’s a plethora of options. However, a notable gap in these resources exists for abled employees.

Disabled managers everywhere may be neglecting key needs of their abled workers or may not understand certain requests. The list below comes from sighted accommodations expert Esther Lemon. It provides some tips for blind workers in particular to better accommodate their sighted colleagues.

  1. Design matters. If something isn’t colored brightly, aligned perfectly or complemented with pictures, sighted people will not read it. It may seem strange that data analytics reports must include pictures, but this is integral to the visual information communication process.
  2. Eye contact over ear contact. Eye contact is reportedly a form of nonverbal communication in which two sighted people look at one another’s pupils and feel a magical connection. Even in crowded or loud situations, avoid turning your ear to the person. While that may actually make listening easier, your sighted colleague will feel as though you are not listening. So you should aim to point your own eyes in the direction of your employee’s face, even if it means you can’t hear anymore.
  3. Add wayfinding signage. For the blind, directions like “walk in the direction of the downward sloping floor” and “second door on the right” make for a good wayfinding experience. However, the sighted have been trained to look for visual signs with giant lettering that signifies where things are, preferably with pointing arrows to really make things clear. This goes for elevator buttons as well: The sighted are not used to counting to the third button on the left to get to the right floor. Make sure your office space is clearly visually marked at every opportunity, or they will get lost.
  4. Turn on the lights. You know this.
  5. Give extra time for book club. With many blind screen reader users used to listening to text-to-speech at upwards of 500 words per minute, you may lose touch with the average sighted person’s reading speed and ability. You might be able to listen in the shower, on a walk or while cooking dinner, but many sighted people need complete focus to read a novel. Give extra time between book club meetings for your sighted peers.

“It’s important to remember that all human beings accommodate the environment — think plumbing, heating, clothing,” said Lemon. “And we shouldn’t leave the abled behind just because they are completely oblivious.”

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